Yes, Indeed! 2014, This Saturday (Rundown, Pt. 1): RIVERS + Keeton Coffman + Belvoir + Megafauna + Ma & God + Sphynx + Sand Dollar Swing + Cassette Tape + A.J. Vincent + England in 1819

10513424_10153029154572589_6511853815975142755_nThis is kind of turning into a weird musical season here in H-town. It may be my imagination, but it seems like there’s a whole crop of new/new-ish music festivals that’ve popped up these past couple of years (since the success of FPSF, maybe?), from Untapped to Something Wicked to No Limits CityFest to Whatever. And y’know what? That’s awesome; very, very glad to see it.

Despite the lure of the big-name, bright-lights spectacle-type festivals, though, I’ve got to say that the kinds of festivals I love the most are the more street-level variety, the ones where you can just wander through without having to fight your way through a crush of people, where you’re more likely to see friends than 5000 strangers. That’s really more what I like best; more low-key deals where you can just hang out and listen to some awesome music.

Which is why this Saturday‘s (September 13th) Yes, Indeed! 2014 Music Festival makes me grin like a moron every time I think about it. Organizers Jason Smith — who, yes, does contribute a lot to this site, but fuck it, we’d love him dearly even if he didn’t — and Phil “Bassman Pep” Peterson have moved their now three-year-old festival from its previous location up near the Last Concert Cafe down to the much more manageable Mid-Main ‘hood, having tested the waters somewhat with last spring’s Madness on Main Street in the same spot, and I’m psyched as hell to watch it unfold.

For one thing, as I think I’ve mentioned lately, the Mid-Main location rules. Right next to the light rail, with easy access to restaurants and whatnot, it’s a lot more welcoming an area that the warehouse district near the LCC (although the grottiness of that area has its own charms). This spring’s MoMS was a blast, with the close proximity of the venues involved, The Continental Club, Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top, The Pachinko Hut, and The Alley Kat (all of which are venues for this year’s Yes, Indeed!, happily), letting festival-goers ramble easily from one stage to the next without having to hike multiple blocks.

Beyond that, while the bands playing at Yes, Indeed! are definitely good, don’t worry (we’ll get to that), there’re no massive egos or unapproachable Rock Stars here. If things go like they have in years past, it’ll feel less like a “festival” and more like a big block party where everybody’s invited and some talented people, y’know, just happen to be playing music.

And then, obviously, there’s the price. In this day and age, folks, it’s tough to beat $12 tickets (if you buy ’em in advance, mind you; they’ll be $15 cash-only at the door).

keetoncoffman1The most crucial part, though, is the music, and holy crap, is that a fine-looking pile of bands and musicians scheduled (some of which will look fairly familiar to those who’ve attended Smith & Peterson’s previous festivals). Go over to the Facebook event page for the most up-to-date schedule, but like we did for the Madness on Main shindig, I wanted to do a randomly-selected rundown of as many of the actual bands as possible before the big day arrives.

So, here we go with the first bunch, and there’ll hopefully be more later in the day (cross yr fingers):

Alright, first up is somebody I already know and love, which is cool by me; I’ve been a big, big fan of RIVERS (or Rivers, depending on how the band feels that day, apparently) since their debut album, Mind Your Mind, came out back in 2011. That album was a fuzzed-out, dirty, boom-y slab of rock awesomeness that grabbed hold of blues-rawk, got it good and stoned, and then dragged it down through the muck. It’s messy and woozy and kinda desperate, and I like it a hell of a lot.

The closest comparison I was able to come up with on that first album was to Mudhoney; the band had a seriously grunge-y throwback feel to ’em, taking that mid-’90s sound and making it their own. With new album Fables In Slang, there’s still some of that going on — “Slim Girl,” for one thing, is a scuffed-up ball of awesome — but there’s more of a straight-up classic rock feel going on, as well. Take “Wanted Man,” for example, where the band ambles along in a Doors-y groove, or the Hendrix riff on “Wishing Well pt. 1,” or the hazy surf vibe of “Green Again. Whatever direction they head in, though, it works.
[RIVERS plays at 10:30PM at The Big Top.]


Keeton Coffman
Next up, there’s a guy who’s become one of my favorite songwriters — from Houston or from anywhere — in a remarkably short amount of time. I liked Keeton Coffman‘s work with The 71’s, especially close to the band’s end, but his solo stuff has been a whole galaxy away from that, with Coffman showing off not only how thoughtful and impassioned he is as a songwriter but also how stellar he is as a vocalist. On both his recent EPs Stumble On Love and The Ghost, he wrestles with a whole lot of pain, joy, and doubt, and the results are utterly amazing, seriously.

I wrote up a review of The Ghost just last month, so I won’t go back over all of that (you can read it right here), except to say that it’s one of the best things I’ve heard so far in 2014. The guy shines live, as well — I was fortunate enough to catch him at Madness on Main Street back in the spring, and his set was powerful enough that by the mid-point, he’d quieted a very, very chatty room of people who’d been just hanging out and not paying attention at all to this random guy who sat down to play some songs. The video for “The Hunted & The Hunter,” the lead single from The Ghost, is below, in case you need more convincing.
[Keeton Coffman plays at 7PM at The Continental Club.]

From two known quantities to a totally unknown (at least, to me)… I’ve heard of Belvoir, but haven’t yet been able to see ’em live or get a hold of anything in recorded form — I know they were working on an EP back in the spring, but hadn’t seen the finished product just yet. I’ve got high hopes, though, in part because the band includes awesome, husky-voiced singer Kelsey Lee Bland, previously seen/heard with both Second Lovers and the gone-too-dang-soon outfit excuseMesir, which I was really impressed with back in 2013.

For the moment, though, the only thing I’ve got to go on is a sweet little video the band posted to Facebook back in May, with just Bland and frontman Brandt Archer sitting on a porch somewhere out in the country and singing. And yep, it’s pretty great; check it out below. If this is what the band’s got in store, I definitely need to get to Yes, Indeed! early this Saturday…
[Belvoir plays at 5:45PM at The Alley Kat.]


I’ve been seriously looking forward to seeing Austin band Megafauna for a few years now, honestly, but I keep missing my chance; this time, though, I’m gonna make it happen, dammit. Unlike the previous band, I’ve at least been able to listen from a distance since first hearing about this band, and that’s a good thing, because I can tell you with certainty that they’re really freaking cool. They’re sharp-edged without being too sleek, just dark enough to be dangerous, and smart/quirky enough to take plenty of unexpected left turns in their music, and the result is like, say, Veruca Salt with simultaneous exposure to both The Black Keys and

Listen to “Touch the Lion,” off this year’s full-length, Maximalist, and you’ll see what I mean — it’s bluesy at points and metal at others, with this head-nodding atmosphere layered over the top of the whole thing, and then the band revs up into a full-tilt boogie by the song’s end. Megafauna live up to their name in terms of sound, that’s for sure; they sound big, the kind of rock that should by rights be filling up stadiums with sweaty bodies. Only this weekend they’ll be filling up the significantly-smaller Big Top; get over there early, right? Here’s the video for “Previous Blood,” from the aforementioned full-length, to get you moving.
[Megafauna plays at 11:30PM at The Big Top.]


maandgod1Ma & God
On the dark, murky end of the spectrum, there’s local (I think?) duo Ma & God, which consists of multi-instrumentalists/singers Peak Allon and Fritz Keen and which plays gritty, gospel-tinged, dirt-level blues-folk of the absolute best possible kind. The pair roll and ramble along on a variety of instruments as they travel down some dusty, off-the-beaten-path road into the deepening twilight, roaming the land to some bleak, known-only-to-them purpose.

Now, Keen’s a fine, fine musician and possesses a nicely rough-edged voice, but truthfully, it’s Allon who really grabs me, with that alternately warbling/crooning/shouting vocal style she has. On minimalist, backwoods stomper “A Prayer,” in particular, she comes off like a strange, out-of-time, less-desperate Janis Joplin if she sang the lead in the choir of some broken-down church way back in the hills. Damn, I need to see these two people live.
[Ma & God plays at 8:15PM at the Pachinko Hut.]


Another Austin band, and one I’ve seen live a couple of times now, both at previous incarnations of this very festival — I first caught Sphynx at last year’s Yes, Indeed!, and then again at Madness on Main Street, and if anything, they blew themselves out of the water that second time. When I saw ’em on an outdoor stage at the previous Yes, Indeed!, sure, they were a lot of fun, they did some wacky electro-pop covers of songs from the ’80s, and the crowd was really into it, but while I liked it, I didn’t feel like staying too long in one place, so I wandered off to see somebody else.

This spring, though, their set at The Alley Kat ended up being the final set of the night for me, and it was a hell of a high note to end on. With a smoke machine and lasers going full-blast, they bounced and danced and vamped all over that relatively-tight space, dressed like extras from Streets of Fire and attacking their instruments like they were playing to a sold-out crowd at some ultra-hip Brooklyn venue, and holy fuck did it work. They won the crowd over damn near immediately, and me as well, despite my limited appetite for retro-ified electronic pop; these guys have talent and sincerity to pull off that swagger, and that’s a ridiculously rare thing. Take a look at this live performance of “Hunger” if you don’t believe me…
[Sphynx plays at 9:45PM at The Alley Kat.]

Sphynx – Hunger (Live in Austin) from Sphynx on Vimeo.

sanddollarswing1Sand Dollar Swing
Speaking of bands I got to see at Madness on Main Street… I caught Sand Dollar Swing, aka Curran Rehm (last seen in The Riff Tiffs) and Cash Kilmister (sometimes seen in The Manichean) at the Pachinko Hut stage back in the spring, and their gentle, folky, minimal style of blues was perfectly laid-back and friendly, just what I was looking for. They even got a few brave people up to waltz around the gravelly Continental Club backyard — one of ’em, a laughing, mustachioed fellow who grinned as he danced solo, holding an invisible partner in his arms, turned out later on to be a guy named Jeff Hunter, who took his own life a couple of months later, but at the time, everybody was happy, and smiling, and bumping along with the music. Looking back, it’s a little bittersweet, but it was a great moment when it happened.

Plus, tomorrow is apparently also Cash’s birthday, and she’ll be celebrating with all the rest of us at Yes, Indeed! both before and after her band’s set. So get on out, enjoy some sweet, low-key blues, and then just hang out for a while.
[Sand Dollar Swing plays at 7:15PM at the Pachinko Hut.]

cassettetape1Cassette Tape
Here’s another band I’ve been meaning to see live for quite a while now; I’ve been intrigued by what I’ve heard from reggae/rock band Cassette Tape for a couple of years, it feels like, but seeing as I don’t get out of the house all that often, it just hasn’t happened, y’know? I’m pretty psyched to hear ’em in person, after listening to their sunny, funky, kinda-jazzy reggae-jam rock in recorded form.

The band went through a lineup change recently, by the way — it seems guitarist/singer Louis Morales left the band a couple of weeks ago, playing his final show back at the end of August. Sad to see him go, as he always seemed to be a pretty integral part of the band’s sound, but glad they’re not calling it quits, even still. Listen in and drift off, below.
[Cassette Tape plays at 9PM at The Continental Club.]


ajvincent1A.J. Vincent
Fans of Austin icons The Bright Light Social Hour should recognize the name A.J. Vincent — he played keys for the band up until March of last year, when he and the band split, citing the oft-given excuse of “different musical visions.” These days, Vincent’s got a solo full-length out, Thief of Fire, that’s making me wonder if the Social Hour really knew what they were losing in letting him go.

Naturally, the focus is on the keys, but that doesn’t mean the album’s just a bunch of indulgent virtuoso noodling. Rather, it’s a tightly-wound set of songs that shifts smoothly from moody soul (“My Heart Calls Your Name”) to Yes-influenced prog-rock (“Come Over My Friend”) to mellow, electronicized instrumentals (“Ravian Flu”) to jaw-droppingly funky, raucous disco-rock (the stellar “Kiss The Sun”) while staying distinctly Vincent’s own sound. It swoops and bounces, strutting like Jagger in his heyday and pulling you right along behind, and the whole thing is just ineffably fun, a serenely smiling, shiny, fuzzed-out ball of goodness. Check it out below.
[A.J. Vincent plays at 8:45PM at The Alley Kat.]


englandin1819-1England in 1819
Last on the pile for right now comes Baton Rouge band England in 1819, who are way, way up at the top of my list of bands I have to see at this year’s Yes, Indeed! fest. I’ve been well and truly hooked since the band’s 2012 album, Alma, won over by the Callaway brothers’ stunningly beautiful, serene, almost elegaic music; they take symphonic, orchestral sounds and mutate them until they become something closer to a pastoral, bucolic version of Radiohead than anything else. Or maybe M83 if they weren’t French and lived in the American South.

I’ve only recently gotten a chance to check out the follow-up to Alma, 2013’s Fireball Electric Tomorrow, and now I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner, because it builds awesomely on the previous release, adding more synths and symphonic elements at the same time and making it all work like a finely-tuned machine. They’ve got a new video out, too, for the gorgeously murky, melancholy and sweet single “Pine,” which manages to incorporate the Southern University Marching Band, LSU cheerleaders, and young, uncertain love along the backroads and in the backwoods of rural Louisiana. Wow.
[England in 1819 plays at 12:45AM at The Alley Kat.]


Dang. Well, I didn’t make as much — or as timely — of a dent as I’d hoped, but that’s all I can do for now. More soon, I promise…

(Photos [top to bottom]: Keeton Coffman; Belvoir; Megafauna; Ma & God; Sphynx; Sand Dollar Swing; Cassette Tape; A.J. Vincent; England in 1819. Sand Dollar Swing photo by J. Hart; A.J. Vincent photo by James Dechert.)

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